Last minute back-to-school checklist for all learning environments

September 10, 2020
PHOTO: Getty Images

Pandemic or not, the first day of school always seems to sneak up on many of us, and this year has probably been no different! Again, parents and caregivers may be wondering how their children’s clothes and shoes are already too small, all those pencils, pens and markers that were seemingly all over their homes have now disappeared, and single-colored lunch and book bags have become uncool within the span of a year. Given the additional stressors and difficult decisions that many families continue to face, back-to-school planning and shopping may have been pushed to the back-burner, especially as learning environments, class schedules, dress codes and safety processes have been ever-changing and somewhat unpredictable. 

With back-to-school preparation looking completely different this year, parents and caregivers should not only update their school checklists with annually scheduled appointments and grade-appropriate school supplies, but also essential, safety items that will help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, purchasing personal supplies that can be used both at home and in the classroom will help ensure a seamless transition between the various learning environments (virtual/at-home vs in-person/classroom vs. hybrid), particularly during times of unanticipated illnesses, quarantines and potential school closures.  Whether starting from scratch or sorting through previous years’ supplies, this back-to-school checklist can be a helpful guide and resource for parents/caregivers of school-aged kids!    

School preparation: 

  • Schedule annual well-child visits and sports physicals, and don’t forget to bring along mandatory school forms.
  • Update vaccinations, including the flu vaccine.
  • Update school emergency contacts, particularly those authorized to pick up your children.
  • Buy a thermometer. If your child has a fever (temperature greater than 100.4) and/or headache, sore throat, cough, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, he/she should be kept home from school.
  • Purchase enough masks to ensure long-term, daily use.
  • Refill over-the-counter (i.e., Tylenol/acetaminophen and Motrin/ibuprofen) and prescription medications.
  • Build up your children’s face mask endurance by having them wear face coverings for incrementally longer periods of time. 
  • Discuss “back-from-school” protocols, including immediate hand washing/sanitizing, removal and washing of face masks and school/gym clothes, disinfecting/cleaning cell phones and other personal items, and storage of school backpacks and shoes.
  • Talk with your children about how school will look different this year. Be sure to discuss new school guidelines and expectations, such as wearing face masks, sitting and standing at least 6 feet away from other people, avoidance of handshakes/high fives/hugs and sharing of personal items/toys/food/drinks, and frequent hand washing/sanitizing.
  • Plan for possible school closures or periods of quarantine. Consider feasibility of teleworking, taking leave from work, and/or identifying alternative back-up care.

Safety supplies:

All-Aged Students

Middle/High School Students

  • Disposable lunch items, including brown paper bags, single-use packaging, and recyclable utensils
  • Disinfectant wipes to clean personal items, laptops/electronic devices, and desks
  • Face mask and spares, labeled with your child’s name
  • Hand sanitizer, with at least 60% alcohol, and carriers
  • Light-colored clothing for increased outdoor time
  • Zip-lock bags to cover/encase cell phones and small electronic devices
  • Plastic bag for dirty/used gym clothes
  • Sunscreen and insect repellant
  • Tissues
  • Water bottle

School supplies:

All-Aged Students

Middle/High School Students

  • Backpack
  • Binders (Three-ring)
  • Book covers
  • Calculator (Basic and Scientific/Graphing)
  • Colored pencils
  • Combination lock
  • Crayons
  • Computer paper and ink cartridges
  • Erasers
  • Highlighters
  • Glue (Sticks for younger children)
  • Hole punch (Three-hold)
  • Markers
  • Index cards
  • Notebooks
  • Paper (Loose leaf and graphing)
  • Pencils
  • Pens (Blue/Black)
  • Pencil bag, grips, sharpener
  • Personal organizer/planner
  • Plastic folders
  • Post-it notes
  • Ruler
  • Protractor
  • Scissors
  • Stapler and staples
  • Tape
  • Subject dividers
  • White-out

Needless to say, the transition back to school will be challenging for all of us! Maintaining a positive attitude and practicing patience, flexibility and grace will help our children reacclimate and successfully return back to school. 

Post by:

Katherine Jennifer Leaming-Van Zandt, MD

Dr. Katherine Leaming-Van Zandt is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and an attending physician in the emergency centers of Texas Children's Hospital (TCH). She, also, serves as the Medical Director of the TCH West Campus Emergency Center.

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